The Week In Ink: June 30, 2010

Hey Captain America’s Foot! What’s a better slang term for heroin than “China Cat?”

 

 

Yes, as the boot to the jaw indicates, I have something to say about comics this week that I haven’t already said, and that means it’s time once again for the Internet’s Most Increasingly Sporadic Comics Reviews! Let’s get to it!

 


 

Batman Beyond #1: Adam Beechen has always been one of the most underrated writers on the Batman family titles. I absolutely loved his run on Robin, and while I got the feeling that I may have been the only one, the thing that I really liked about it was that he wrote Robin like exactly what I wanted to read: A teenage Batman. A Fun-Size World’s Greatest Detective, if you will.

That alone makes him a pretty good choice to take on Batman Beyond, as “teenage Batman” is pretty much exactly what’s going on there. And I’ve gotta say, I really liked what he did here. I watched the entire series over the past week, and Beechen’s script slots right into where the cartoon left off, hitting a lot of what’s so enjoyable about it. I like the art, too: While Dustin Nguyen gives Terry McGinnis a bulkier look than I’m used to, Ryan Benjamin’s interior art is very fluid and dynamic and works really well. It’s got a lot going for it.

As to the story itself, well, I’m about to get into some spoilers, so if you’re planning on reading it and haven’t yet, you may want to do that. One one level, I really like what Beechen’s doing here. Like I said in the ComicsAlliance article, my favorite episodes of the show tend to be the ones that involve Bruce Wayne’s villains returning or handing down legacies, and the idea of someone coming back to kill the surviving members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery hits those buttons perfectly. I’m not sure if it’s the familiarity of it, the fun of seeing the new ways creators play with old toys, or just the sells-itself high concept of “Batman vs. the Joker… in the future!!!!“, it’s just right up my alley.

But then Hush shows up.

I was just talking to Chad today about how there really aren’t that many bad characters, but if ever there’s been a guy that has led to nothing good, it’s neuro/heart/plastic surgeon Tommy Elliot, Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend that I just remembered who just will not go away. He’s essentially the 21st Century version of the Thief of Night, in that he’s an inexplicable super-huge deal that we’re all going to look back on one day and go “wait, there were a ton of comics about this guy?” And yet, here we are with another piece of his empire.

But that said, his appearance here doesn’t make for a bad story, if that is who the bad guy is and not just Beechen setting up a plot twist (in which case, even better). In fact, I had a great laugh when I finally hit the last-page reveal that the story is actually called “Hush Beyond,” and I actually appreciate the fact that Beechen’s doing what nobody else has been able to do on Batman Beyond: Tell a story that doesn’t have its basis in the animated universe. Unless he’s going to do a one-issue flashback Animated Universe version of Hush, which I have to admit sounds like it could be pretty awesome.

In either case, it’s solid enough comics that espite the fact that my eyes tend to glaze over whenever they hit the words “Tommy Elliot,” I’m willing to give it a chance. Why?

Because Terry talks about “that weird convention of Jokerz,” and if you can’t get excited about Batman fighting the Gathering of the Juggalos in the year 2059, then we will never understand each other.

 


 

And that’s pretty much it, although for those of you who missed it, I had very strong feelings about the Iron Man Annual, with the short version being that it’s easily one of the best comics of the year — and considering how much Shirtless Batman we’ve gotten in 2010, that’s saying something.

So go get it, and if anything caught your eye this week, feel free to tell me all about it in the comments below!

The Week In Ink: June 16, 2010

Hey, we’re back!

 

 

Yes, it’s been a few weeks, what with HeroesCon and the fact that I’ve been waking up and writing for fourteen hours a day (which severely cuts into my Red Dead Redemption, er, sleep time), but tonight, the Internet’s Most Wheatcake-Loving Comics Reviews return with a vengeance!

Although now that I think of it, no actual vengeance will be involved. Just some comics I like.

 


 

Amazing Spider-Man #633: I haven’t been following the current arc in Amazing Spider-Man, but yesterday, my ComicsAlliance coworkers David Uzumeri and David Brothers insisted that Zeb Wells, Chris Bachalo and Emma Rios were doing the best Spider-Man story of the past ten years. That’s a pretty strong statement; even just saying it was the best of the post-Brand New Day stuff would be putting it up against the great stories by Dan Slott, Mark Waid and Marcos Martin, and it’s pretty strong to claim that anyone’s doing better work than Paul Tobin on the Marvel Adventures book. But those guys tend to know what they’re talking about, so I picked up all four parts this week and read through the whole story in one shot. And I’ve gotta say…

They’re not wrong.

I’m not quite sure if it hits the best of the decade mark, but it’s easily in the top five, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s the best Lizard story ever written. That might not sound like a big deal — the Lizard’s always been my least favorite of the enduring Spider-Man bad guys — but Wells, Bachalo and Rios take someone I’d long ago written off as a one-note character and do a story that’s thrilling, complex and emotional, creating a note-perfect Spider-Man adventure. And what’s more, they manage to do it with a story designed to amp up an existing villain, which are notoriously hard to pull off in a way that doesn’t come off as trying way too hard and ending up with a story where Signalman stabs hookers in the eyes with semaphore flags made of the bones of dead orphans.

What really impressed me, though, is how it’s all handled. Make no mistake, this is a violent comic, and while there’s bloodshed, it’s never grotesque or gory, rising above lesser comics that revel in vulgarity disguised as mature storytelling by taking the focus away from the violence itself and putting it on the emotions that violence provokes. In that respect, it pulls off with apparent effortlessness what other books try so hard and fail to do. It’s a textbook example of exactly how this sort of thing needs to work. And a lot of that has to do with Bachalo.

I don’t always care for his work, but when he’s on, he is on, and this is one of the best things he’s done, pulling out a distinctive style that lends itself to both the frenetic external action and the internal struggle between Curt Connors and the Lizard that drives the story. His action scenes are top notch, and he’s one of the few artists able to draw Spider-Man himself as kind of small and soft (contrasting him with his huge, scaly rendering of the Lizard) while still making him look heroic.

He’s not the only one responsible for how good this book looks, though: Emma Rios, whose work I absolutely loved on Strange, handles the scenes that don’t relate to the Lizard, and she pulls off one of my favorite parts of the entire arc with the final resolution of the Negative Aunt May story. The inking, the coloring, it all works great here. But what really caught my eye was Joe Caramagna’s lettering.

He pulls off a trick in this issue that’s one of the best integrations of lettering into the story that I’ve seen outside of Simonson’s Thor. It’s not just a matter of putting dueling internal monologue in different fonts and colors for Connors’ struggle with the Lizard…

 

 

…but when Connors is destroyed, the lettering itself is shattered:

 

 

It’s an incredible use of technique, especially since Caramagna has actually created a way for a fully internalized struggle to be represented visually, following the reader’s natural eye line for amazing impact. It’s the best use of the language of comics I’ve seen in a long, long time, and it’s a striking example of the level of craft that went into every aspect of this book.

It all adds up to something that’s not only the high point of Wells’ career as a writer and something everyone involved can be proud of, but a story that’s going to be able to stand up alongside stuff like Kraven’s Last Hunt. It’s that good.

 


 

So good, in fact, that we might as well call it a week with that. As always, if anything caught your eye this week (or if someone can let me know if there’s a story that explains how Lady Blackhawk managed to make an entire skirt out of Cavorite), feel free to leave a comment below.

EDIT: I always forget to include these, but for more of my opinions on comics I liked this week, check out the ComicsAlliance roundtable review of Amazing Spider-Man Presents Black Cat #1!

The Week In Ink: May 26, 2010

I have no idea at all if Jason Aaron even knows I exist, let alone the particulars of what comics I like, but at this point, I can come to no other conclusion:

 

 

That dude has got to be writing comics only for me at this point. But he’s not the only one, and that’s the subject of tonight’s installment of The Internet’s Most Shirtless-Batman-Loving Comics Reviews! Here are my thoughts on a couple of the comics I picked up this week!

 


 

Return of Bruce Wayne #2: If you don’t like this comic, then you’re stupid and I probably hate you.

I’m not even kidding. If you asked me to come up with my ideal plot for a comic book, it would be very close to this, a story where–spoiler warning, and seriously, if you haven’t read this, stop here and go do so, then go read David Uzumeri’s annotations for this issue–Darkseid uses The Omega Sanction to turn Bruce Wayne into a living time bullet, counting on him fighting his way through time by sheer shirtless Batmanly determination, while still solving other mysteries and Batmanning in different eras, only for Batman to be one step ahead of him all along. It is, in all honesty, everything I want from a Batman story and more.

It gets to the heart of Morrison’s vision of Batman as a character, much in the same way that Final Crisis: Superman Beyond was his vision of Superman writ large. In that story, nothing can hold the Bleed, but Superman can, but here, he’s taking it to the next level. It’s not just that nobody could survive the Omega Sanction and being lost in caveman days–but Batman can–it’s that Darkseid is aware of this and took advantage of it, doing to the 21st Century exactly what he did to Orion in Final Crisis, launching a last spiteful “from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee” strike at the world that defeated him, and that Batman knows all this and is still going to defeat him.

It’s the extension of everything Morrison’s been doing with the character since JLA and Superman’s explicit assertion that Batman’s the most dangerous man on Earth, and it’s one that comes up again and again in his work, from his role as the Justice League’s master planner to the scene in R.I.P. where the Joker talks about how no matter how crazy he gets, Batman draws another mental box around him. It’s his defining trait.

Morrison’s Superman isn’t defined by his powers, he’s defined by his morality; the defining scene of All Star Superman isn’t Superman fighting Solaris or even Lex Luthor, it’s him stopping the girl from committing suicide. It’s that he cares. And in the same way, Morrison’s Batman is defined by one trait: He is, quite simply, the World’s Greatest Detective. No one, not even a god, can out-think him.

Every now and then I’ll have a conversation about Batman (surprise!) with my pal and ex-Cracked editor Jay Pinkerton, and he generally takes the tactic of calling me an attention deficit spaz who only wanting Batman to fight gorillas in space, while I tell him he’s a narrow-minded child for thinking the grim-and-gritty street vigilante is more valid than other portrayals. If we were sitcom roommates, we would’ve long ago drawn a line down the middle of the apartment, where Brave and the Bold can only be watched on one side. And yet, we both think this is one of the best comics we’ve ever read, because the core of the character is valid, even in a bizarre (and to me, awesome) milieu of sun-eater dragons and time travel.

On the art side of things, Frazer Irving does an amazing job here, just as he did in the similarly puritain-themed Seven Soldiers: Klarion with Morrison. What’s different here, though, is how he’s able to effortlessly go from Batman fighting an Elder Thing to the sci-fi styled Vanishing Point and the literal collapse of the universe to the 17th Century version of street crime, jumping from one to the next in an absolutely beautiful story. There are great, simple tricks that he pulls off perfectly–the shadow of “Mordecai’s” hat shading his face like Batman’s mask, the jaw-dropping shock on Malleus’s face at the end–and the whole experience is fantastic, especially given that Irving was handed the unenviable task of following up Chris Sprouse, who was equally perfect in the first issue–and who seriously needs to draw Morrison’s run, for real you guys.

So I guess what I’m saying here is that I liked it.

I liked it a lot.

 


 

So much, in fact, that talking about anything else at this point just doesn’t have the same zing. There was a surprising amount of great comics this week–Thunderbolts, Weapon X, Fantastic Four, Secret Avengers, Thor, even a surprisingly fun Brave and the Bold that I’m sure I’ll talk about when the second part comes out and the fan-service-filled final (for me) issue of Power Girl–and a couple of real stinkers, but you guys know where my heart lies.

If you’d like to discuss them, or any other comic you liked this week, have at it!

The Week In Ink: May 19, 2010

And now, here’s the 3-D Man with some advice for those of you in failing relationships:

 

 

Yes, it’s time once again for the Internet’s Most Tingly Comics Reviews! And since I’ve started narrowing down the field of what I review every week, this time I’ve decided to do a theme. So to that end, here are my thoughts on three comics by dudes named Paul!

 


 

Batman: Streets of Gotham #12: Paul Dini gets a lot of flak from the Comics Blogger Internet for being in love with certain characters and overusing them, but while there are a lot of legitimate complaints you can make about the guy’s work, I really don’t think that’s one of them.

I mean, yes, he throws Harley Quinn and Zatanna (see below) into just about everything, but a) it’s not like there aren’t a ton of fans out there who love those characters just as much as he does, and b) what’s wrong with a guy writing about the stuff he likes? I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want to write Gambit and Wonder Man at the Gathering of the Juggalos, and most of the time, he’s fleshing out characters that make for a richer storytelling environment. It doesn’t always work out–the amped-up Mr. Zsasz, for instance, fell totally flat for me and Hush is a character that is fundamentally flawed in that he sucks, he’s stupid and I hate him–and Dini’s got his share of comics that are thoroughly lousy for other reasons, but when it does work, it’s really good.

Which brings me to this issue, which focuses on The Carpenter, who was introduced a while back as a henchman to what seemed at the time like throwaway villain, and who Dini has further developed since. In this issue, she fits a perfect little Paul Gambi role that you don’t see too often: in addition to henching, she also puts her carpentry skills to use building deathtraps in super-villain hideouts. It’s a concept that could easily devolve into navel-gazing, but Dini keeps the story moving at a brisk, engaging pace, even pairing her up with a new (and hilariously over the top) villain. Which, again, is something that’s great about Dini’s work when he’s on: He brings new stuff to the table, and it’s often pretty clever.

There are only two problems with the story: First, Batman’s barely in it. That’s not a huge issue if the story that’s being told is good enough (which this one is), and while Batman’s name is on the cover, this is Streets of Gotham, which is ostensibly designed to provide a wider take on Gotham City and the extended Batman Family. Like I said, it’s a good story and between you and me, I only really care about what Batman’s doing in comics by Grant Morrison these days, but for whatever reason, his absence was noticeable. Probably because it’s him and a bunch of bats on the cover rather than the Carpenter, setting up expectations that aren’t met.

Secondly, and far more insurmountable, there’s a break in the (enjoyable) Carpenter story to continue the (not enjoyable) other stuff that’s been going on in the book, and holy crap, did you guys know there’s a character in this book named Abuse? I probably would’ve noticed this sooner if I hadn’t completely checked out of the main story in favor of the Manhunter backups (which this month is unfortunately saddled with some art I flat-out do not care for) about six months ago, but man. As much as I value Dini’s attempts to bring in new stuff: That is straight up rough.

Overall, though, it’s pretty good stuff, and I’m glad to see it. When Dini’s bad, he’s downright atrocious, but when he’s good, he does exactly the sort of stuff I want to read.

 

Legion of Super-Heroes #1: One of my favorite franchises got a relaunch this week, and, well… it’s certainly a comic about the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The return of Paul Levitz to the title is something a lot of people have been excited about, and justifiably so: He wrote some of the best comics in the history of the team. An Eye for an Eye isn’t just a high point for the Legion, it’s a high point for comics in the ’80s, and that’s saying something. But it’s been a quarter of a century since that came out, and this issue just feels off.

From a technical standpoint, it’s not bad–at the very least, Levitz has always been good at the juggling of multiple plot threads that having such a big cast requires– and it’s very well-done artwise, but it just sort of lays there on the page, completely failing to engage me. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been thinking so much about the Legion lately, and maybe it’s that I’ve been re-reading the Tom Peyer/Tom McCraw/Roger Stern ’90s Legion issues lately, but considering that I really liked what Geoff Johns did in Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, which leads directly to this, I should’ve liked it more than I did.

But instead, it just gets worse the more I think about it. There are inconsistencies in the characters (Brainiac 5 acts way more like a ranting mad scientist than he did in SATLOSH) and the book’s major plot point just doesn’t make sense. The Legion letting Earth-Man join after he literally has themthrown into concentration camps or imprisoned in glass boxes that let him steal their powers is just crazy, and the fact that it’s only addressed by a hand-waving “oh it’s political” line makes it even worse. Creating tension within a team is fine, but the only Legionnaires in this book that are actually from Earth are Sun Boy (who Earth-Man tortured half to death) and Colossal Boy (whose wife was beaten and imprisoned by Earth-Man), so why would anyone want to have him on the team to smooth over political repercussions? They make a big deal about reforming him into an example of “Earthers” cooperating with aliens, but the guy is Space Hitler. There’s no reason given why they actually need Earth’s backing, just that it’s “where the Legion belongs.” There’s a mention of sharing the Time Institute’s discoveries with the rest of the United Planets, but again: They already have time travel, and we know that because they just finished teaming up with Superman, who is from a thousand years in the past. None of it makes any sense.

And then there’s the cover, where book that’s an old version of a team written by a guy who wrote it 25 years ago that even has its old logo gets billed as “AN ALL-NEW ERA.” I don’t mean to knock Levitz here, but seriously: What’s all-new about this? There are plenty of superlatives you could hang on this one (“A RETURN TO GREATNESS!” “THE CLASSIC TEAM REBORN!” “HEY OLD FOLKS, HERE’S YOUR COMICS!”) and in all fairness, I guess it actually is a new “era” for the Legion, but it feels like someone’s having a laugh.

I really want there to be a good Legion comic, and at this point, I don’t care if it’s the reboot, the threeboot, the deboot, the animated series, crazy porno fanart or what. I’ve got my preference, sure, but right now I just want it to be good. And this issue doesn’t fit the bill, no matter how much I wish it did.

 

Zatanna #1: So this is a comic that opens with a full-page splash of Zatanna bound, gagged and about to be drilled from behind.

Literally.

 

 

It is pretty hilarious. It’s also based on an actual illusion, but Paul Dini’s a smart enough guy that he’s not oblivious to the symbolism in what he’s writing, especially considering that he put Dr. Light in there. He is, in essence, opening his book with a response to every one of his critics who dismisses him as a writer with a crush on Zatanna, and that response is “Yeah, so?” It’s Dini brushing his shoulders off, and that’s pretty awesome.

There’s no denying that Zatanna is one of his favorites–a good thing, as his marriage likely hinges on being at least a little in love with a hot magician–but the end result of that is that he’s actually written a string of really good Zatanna stories. There’s the Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited episodes, of course, but also 2003′s very underrated Vertigo one-shot, and while I’m pretty sure she appeared more than Alfred and Commissioner Gordon combined during his run on Detective Comics, but again, they were decent stories.

And now, she’s been bumped up to her first ever ongoing, and even past the metatextual hilarity of the splash page, it’s pretty solid. There’s clear motivation, a nice setup, a quick introduction to set of villains that get handily dealt with in an action scene that lends the book a good bit of pacing. One of Dini’s core strengths in comics has been his ability to get things done both good and quickly (his Detective run is marked by a string of solid single-issue stories), and he does everything you want from a first issue here. It’s solid stuff, and I’m hoping it gets better as it goes on.

 


 

And that’s the week! As always, if something caught your eye, feel free to tell me about it in the comments section below, and for more reviews of this week’s comics, tune in to Ajax on Monday and keep an eye on ComicsAlliance, where we’ve got a big roundtable coming up where we tackle Avengers #1!

The Week In Ink: May 12 2010

Well. This has certainly been a week, hasn’t it? There’s a lot to talk about on both sides of the equation, but as I’ve pretty much had my say on the matter, I’m just going to let shirtless Batman kicking Vandal Savage soothe my troubled soul:

 

 

Yes, it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Cheeriest Comics Reviews! Here’s a couple of the comics that made me smile and love the medium this week!

 


 

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1: Last night when we were recording Ajax, I was describing this issue to Euge, and right about the time that I got to a bare-chested Bruce Wayne fighting Vandal Savage during caveman days with his grappling hook, he stopped me and just said “This is like porn for you, isn’t it?”

And he was absolutely right.

I’m sure it doesn’t surprise anyone that I loved this comic, but I loved everything about it, from the way that it picks up directly after the events of Final Crisis to the fact that Batman’s just straight up kicking it in Caveman days with his shirt off like a boss. But beyond those big fist-pumping awesome moments–which include Superman showing up to drop one of those great “Batman is so awesome you guys” speeches that Morrison first had him drop way back in JLA #4, it’s just a really well-done comic.

My ComicsAlliance coworker David Uzumeri hit pretty much everything in his annotations to the issue, but I really don’t think you can say enough good things about how well it’s all put together: The symbolism of the white necklace that Vandal Savage takes from the deer tribe, the fact that Batman’s very presence inspires Robin-esque heroics from others. It’s astonishingly thoughtful for a book that, when you get right down to it, is ostensibly about Batman beating ass in Caveman days.

It’s not just Morrison that makes this issue great, though. Chris Sprouse is one of those artists that i can’t get enough of, and I’ve always wondered why he was never The Guy for Batman or Superman in the modern age. He and Karl Story always do good work, and here, under Guy Major’s coloring, it’s no exception. They take everything Morrison throws at them and pull it off beautifully, from the Steranko-esque hallucination sequence to the sheer ridiculousness of a guy dressing up in the skin of a gigantic bat to Bruce Wayne himself, with his… chiseled abs… broad shoulders… deep blue eyes you could lose yourself in for days

Whuh?! Oh, sorry, lost myself there for a second. Point is, it’s a fantastic, exciting comic book that was just pure joy for me to read, much to the surprise of absolutely nobody.

 

Birds of Prey #1: I think I’ve mentioned it more this past week than I ever did during the actual run of the first series, but I was a long-time reader of the original run of Birds of Prey for over a hundred issues, and while it was never my favorite book, it was always pretty solid and entertaining. As such–and as weird as this was for me to realize as a guy who constantly rails about nostalgia being the poison that’s killing comics–Birds of Prey sort of represents my idealized DC Universe, way back in the distant time we call “the mid-to-late ’90s,” when anything was possible! Continuity and world-building were the tools for books like Chase, and second- and third-stringers roamed the land in their own titles, proud and free.

You can probably already tell it’s going to be a night where I go into a lot of weird tangents.

Anyway, getting back to what I was trying to say, I’m glad to have Birds of Prey back, and Gail Simone certainly didn’t disappoint. She hasn’t missed a step in the years since she last wrote the book, picking up with a classic “getting the band back together” type of plot. In fact, I think she actually used the phrase “get the band back together” in the script, but once I hit the Gotham City street gang composed entirely of evil cheerleaders, everything else just sort of faded to background noise.

Which isn’t to say that it’s perfect: There’s no power in Heaven or Earth that’ll make me care about Hawk and Dove, for instance. And artwise, while Ed Benes is certainly better here than he was on Justice League–especially in terms of storytelling and fight choreography–there are still places where he could improve. The faces, for instance, all look very similar, and while you can get away with women who all look the same in some places, a book about an all-female team requires a little more diversity. Plus, I would’ve liked to see him use the Huntress costume that Cully Hamner has her in in the Detective Comics backups (you know, the one that isn’t Daisy Dukes and an ab window), but that’s hardly an insurmountable flaw.

So yeah, it’s a solid issue, and even after almost ten years straight reading it, I’ve got to admit that Birds of Prey can still surprise me. I mean…

 

 

Who knew Dinah Lance was down with the 36 Chambers?

 

Flash #2: Every now and then, someone will come along and inform me that I have a grudge against someone I’ve never met. I’m pretty sure these are the same people were telling me I hated comics five years ago when I started the ISB, but it boils down to an insistence on their part that I can’t just dislike a work on its own merits or flaws, and that my vocal hatred is the by-product of some secret vendetta that I just won’t cop to, which ignores the fact that I tend to be vocal about things in general. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been told that specifically, I have boundless hate for Mark Millar (who, I will admit, has an ultra-huckster public persona that I find frequently laughable), and of course, Geoff Johns.

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about it lately in regards to The Flash. If ever there was a book that was ready-made for me to go in to further my alleged crusade, it’d be this one. It embodies something I’ve written about hating a dozen times–the regression of a legacy character to an earlier state and the consequential invalidating and shunting-to-limbo of two decades of stories I love–and I’ve said more than once that outside of Tom vs. the Flash, my interest in Barry Allen is nil.

So if there’s any book my “grudge” should lead me to hate, it’s this one, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t initially go into it expecting to do just that. And yet, here we are at the second issue, and just like the first, I think it’s pretty darn enjoyable. I still think Barry Allen is a cipher who could be just about anyone at this point, but the plot’s engaging and entertaining, the speed tricks are fun and suitably heroic, and there’s even a scene–the little girl and her doll–that made me laugh out loud while I was reading it. Even with a scene that has all the subtlety of a brick wall (“No one will stop! They’re all too busy to help!”) it’s a good comic that shows just how fun a book Johns is capable of writing, and Francis Manapul’s art is not only great, but surprisingly stylized for something that’s clearly meant to be a top-tier book. It’s a chance that I wouldn’t have expected DC to take, but I’m glad they did.

The only thing I don’t like is the violence. This may just be me being a premature Cranky Old Man at 27 and indulging my own nostalgia for Mark Waid’s “bank robbers–not killers” characterization of the Rogues in his defining run on the title, but was it really necessary for Captain Boomerang to murder two cops by shattering their frozen bodies? It seems to me like… well, like something out of Batman as oposed to The Flash, and as crazy as that sounds, I think it’s a legitimate expectation for the guy in a bright red and yellow leotard to have a little brighter book than the dude who dresses like Dracula and only has adventures at night.

It’s probably not as bad as it seems, but it really stuck out to me; like Invincible, the violence is more noticeable when what’s surrounding it is so comparatively lighthearted, and having a guy named “Captain Boomerang” commit a double homicide and then get beaten to a pulp just seems… off. But again, it didn’t break the issue for me. I still thought it was a solid comic. I just wish I could get behind it a hundred percent, because contrary to what folks might think, I’d be perfectly happy to love every comic I read.

Well, except Anita Blake. There’s no fixing that one.

 


 

And that’s the week. As always, if there’s something that caught your eye in this week’s books–and I’m sure there is–feel free to leave a comment below.

The Week In Ink: May 5, 2010

I gotta tell you, folks: This was the one that almost didn’t happen. After taking last week off to prep for FCBD and then writing up a storm this afternoon, I just wasn’t feeling it. But then:

 

 

Hellboy being kicked in the face by a luchador possessed by Camazotz, the Mayan Bat-God of Death. Truly, it is as though El Santo himself was urging me to post it. Thus, the Internet’s Most Rudo Comics Reviews have returned for another night! For my thoughts on Hellboy in Mexico, check out this week’s ComicsAlliance roundtable, but now, here are my thoughts on this week’s books!

 


 

Archie #608: On the off chance that anyone thinks I haven’t written enough about race in comics today, this week saw me finally getting my hands on a copy of Archie #608. This was, of course, the comic that prompted my last outburst of pseudo-brainy writing on the subject, and I’ve been wondering for a while how it was going to play out. This is a pretty key moment for Riverdale, standing as almost as big a step as their upcoming introduction of Kevin Keller, and it really could’ve gone either way.

So what’s the verdict? It’s actually pretty good stuff. For one thing, while most of the Archie books are the only ones left that stick to the three-story format, this one takes up the whole issue, following the model of the “New Look” stories without losing the house art style. It’s something that Dan Parent and Bill Galvan really take advantage of, establishing an enjoyable sitcom conflict, wrapping it up, and then escalating things with Archie and Val, and while the issue could certainly use a little more Melody Valentine (and really, what couldn’t?
?) the extra breathing room allows for a much zippier story.

But the big deal is the kiss itself. Not to spoil anything, but Parent and Galvan actually manage to pull off a surprise fakeout in an Archie comic, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: After a long night of songwriting, Archie and Valerie have a reasonably chaste goodnight kiss, then part… and then come back together for something that’s one poet shirt away from a romance novel cover. By Archie standards, it’s a remarkably passionate display, and it’s obvious that the creators knew exactly what they were doing when they set it up–they know this is a big deal, and that’s exactly how they’re treating it.

Plus, there were two other things that I really found notable about it: One, that they actually involved Veronica’s nerdy cousin Marcy in the plot (notable because she’s my go-to example for a third-tier Archie character that doesn’t get much to do), and second, that it was inked by Rich Koslowski. Yeah, that Rich Koslowski, from 3 Geeks and one of my favorite comics about religion ever, The King.

Weird, huh?

 

Batman and Robin #12: Okay, look: I don’t want to spoil the last page of this one for anyone–even someone who should know better than to go into a page of reviews if they don’t want spoilers–but I would like to point out something I said in November:

“…if I’m Dick Grayson and I meet a guy named “Oberon Sexton,” I’m just going to start hitting him on general principle.”

Told you so.

The amazing thing about this issue, though, is that the last page reveal isn’t the only great moment about it. It’s fantastic from top to bottom, and while you can hear Euge and I gushing about it on next week’s episode of Ajax, but the scene with Damian and Talia is one of the most ice-cold badass moments I’ve seen in comics in a long time, as is the nice reminder that Dick Grayson is a guy that not only inherited Bruce Wayne’s arch-enemies, but also brings his own to the table. And then there’s the part where they connect the dots on a map.

Guys, I am not gonna lie here: I am a total sucker for guys connecting lines on a map to see a pattern. On one level, it’s absolutely ludicrous, but in a way that appeals to the kid inside me that grew up loving the World’s Greatest Detective, it’s always hit me as not only the perfect visual representation of putting clues together, but as the kind of thing that embodies the over-the-top nature of what I love about comics. I loved it in Dark Knight, Dark City, and I love it here. It’s just the way I’m made.

 


 

And that’s all I’ve got for this week! As always, if you’d like to discuss anything that hit the shelves, whether it’s Chris Roberson and Mike Allred’s truly awesome first issue of I, Zombie or the abysmal Brightest Day #1, which managed to embody this brighter spirit of the DC Universe by going 8 pages before the first reference to rape and 17 pages before someone’s arm got torn off, feel free to leave a comment below!

The Week In Ink: April 21, 2010

If there’s one thing I like more than a super-hero kicking someone in the mouth, it’s an Asgardian Goddess kicking a techno-virus-infected host body in the mouth…

 

 

…in space.

Yes, it turns out my tastes are becoming increasingly specific, and yet I feel compelled to share them with you in another round of the Internet’s Most Fetishistic Comics Reviews!

Here are my thoughts on this week’s titles!

 


 

Nova #36: You know, it’s been my experience as a comics reader that when an issue ends with “Never The End!”, what they really mean is “Oh yeah, this is totally the end.”

Such is the case with this week’s Nova, which–along with its sister book in the Grand Abnett & Lanning Cosmic Saga–sure does read like a last issue. I’ve heard, but not been able to confirm with a cursory round of googling–that the book’s going on hiatus during the Thanos Imperative, but as we all learned from the sad, limbo-bound fate of The Immortal Iron Fist, going on hiatus while another mini-series goes on is no guarantee that you’ll be coming back. And with Nova being revealed to have a slot in the upcoming Secret Avengers the stars don’t really point to a continuation of his spacebound adventures.

It’s not that I think Nova’s going away–he seems to be a character on the rise that Marvel’s willing to put in the spotlight, as evidenced by his prominence in Paul Tobin’s Free Comic Book Day story and the aforementioned role in Secret Avengers–but based on sheer storytelling logistics, it’s awfully hard to have him be Secretly Avenging when he’s also bopping around space helping out the Kymellians or the Badoon or whatever. But then, it should be hard for the Punisher to be both a Frankenstein’s Monster and a senior-citizen vigilante mass murderer at the same time too, and they manage okay, and space warps mean an easy commute. So maybe I’m wrong.

If I’m not, though, and a rebranding is imminent, it’s a real shame. This issue–and the last three years of Nova, plus the time before that in Annihilation have been unfailingly fantastic. Heck, they’re the books that made me like Cosmic Marvel more than Cosmic DC, and that’s saying something. They’re just full of fun stuff, and it makes for something highly enjoyable. But clearly, I’m not the only one saying that–maybe it’s just the company I keep, but I’ve rarely seen anyone have anything but glowing praise for Abnett, Lanning, and their various cosmic co-conspirators (by the way: Cosmic Co-Conspirators? Call me, Marvel), so I can’t imagine that the shakeup would put the lid on the entirety of Marvel’s space stuff.

Which, I suppose, isn’t really much of a review of this issue, so: It’s got evil twins, alternate dimensions, and Cthulhu being zapped with space lasers. IT’S GREAT!

 

Sif #1: Kelly Sue DeConnick is one of the nicest creators I’ve ever met. Of course, the vast majority of creators I’ve met have been nice–that’s one of the amazing things about the comics industry, especially given the level of access that fans have to the people who make the books–but as you can tell by her quote in the sidebar, she’s just remarkably friendly and fun to talk to. Which is great, because there’s nothing I like better than when good people make good comics.

And this is a good one. ISB readers are probably aware that I consider Walt Simonson’s Thor to be the finest comic ever crafted by the hands of men, and DeConnick’s portrayal of Sif as a steadfast but prone-to-flip-out warrior falls right along those lines. It’s exciting, with a great little one-off plot that lends itself well to the self-contained nature of a one-shot, but still makes me want to see the inevitable conflict between Loki and the Asgardians almost as much as Gillen and McKelvie did last week. It’s solidly entertaining stuff, and if Marvel was looking to add another myth-inspired book to their ranks, they could do a lot worse than to drag Asgard away from Oklahoma and center it directly above the Fraction/DeConnick household (with occasional visits to England for more of Gillen’s Beta Ray Bill and Loki).

Plus, she finally wraps up a plot point about the awkwardness of Beta Ray Bill’s new relationship. But then again, I imagine it’s always awkward when your ex-boyfriend is a space-horse.

 

The Tick #3: I’ve been a pretty vocal booster of Benito Cereno and Les McClaine’s new Tick series (called, appropriately enough, Tick: New Series) since the first issue hit in November, and while it’s something you should all be reading, it’s worth noting that this issue features something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before: Cereno actually apologizes to the readers.

Lord knows I’d never do anything like that–I’m pretty reading this issue was the first time I’ve ever actually realized apologizing to readers was something you could actually do–but Cereno is far less of a jerk adversarial than I am. Regardless, his apology has to do with the fact that all three issues thus far have involved a new character he created for the series, Scarf Ace, the knitting bandit. See, he doesn’t want to be the guy who creates a pet character and then uses her all the time, as we’ve all seen elsewhere.

And to that, I say this: Pish-tosh, Benito! If anything, the public demands more Scarf Ace, the Sensational Character Find of November 2009! I say we get her into an ongoing series immediately, but why stop there? Scarf Ace Team-Up! Scarf Ace: Thief with a Thread! Scarf Ace Corps, featuring Lady Scarf Ace, who is twice as much lady as the original Scarf Ace (who is only one time a lady)! Seriously, Benito. Have your people call me. We’ll make this happen.

 

Ultimate Avengers #6: This issue was the subject of this week’s 30-second recap, but as some people didn’t quite get the message, I’ll clarify:

Take a look at the two scenes I posted, written by the same person nine years apart.

They are the same scene. Guy with reality warping powers makes female heroine relive past trauma. I mean really.

 


 

And that’s the week! As always, if there’s anything you’d like to discuss, like the perfect represenation of the High Concept in this week’s Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki, feel free to leave a comment below. Or, to hear me prattle on about Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #2, tune in to next Monday’s War Rocket Ajax!